British Executions

Ernest Walter Wickham

Age: 30

Sex: male

Crime: murder

Date Of Execution: 13 Aug 1901

Crime Location: Dalberg Road, Brixton, London

Execution Place: Wandsworth

Method: hanging

Executioner: James Billington


Ernest Walter Wickham was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Amy Eugenie Russell 35.

He cut her throat on 27 June 1901 after she refused to marry him until he got a job.

They had earlier been seen arguing in the Raglan Beerhouse on Cornwall Road around midnight and after had gone back to Dalberg Road where a neighbour heard a scream. When he looked out of the window he saw Amy Russell appear from Jelf Road and then saw a man cut her throat and run off.

Ernest Wickham had run off to a coffee stall on the corner of Acre Lane where he was seen by the owner who noticed that he was covered in blood and having difficulty in lighting his cigarette because of all the blood on his hands. The owner of the coffee stall asked him about the blood and Ernest Wickham told him that he had been in a fight.

When the police arrived at Dalberg Road, Amy Russell was dead. They then followed a blood trail to the coffee stall where they talked to the owner who knew Ernest  Wickham and then went to his home at 40 Santley Street where they found him in bed still with blood all over his hands.

Amy Russell had lived in lodgings at 33 Railton Road in Brixton and had a child of about 14 years of age and had been in receipt of an allowance of ?16 a month. She also supported herself by doing some needlework at her lodgings.

Ernest Wickham had been a clerk, however, it was heard that he had done no work for eight years and had only lived on what he could get from Amy Russell and her sister.

The landlady at 33 Railton Road said that Amy Russell had lodged with her for about seven months and that she had seen Ernest Wickham there about three times, although she said that she had seen him more frequently outside the house, noting that they had forbid him from coming to the house after he came round drunk, after which her husband told him not to come back again.

The landlord of the Raglan beerhouse in Cornwall Road, Brixton said that he had known Ernest Wickham for four or five months as a customer.

He said that he saw him in his house at about midnight on 26 June 1901 with Amy Russell and that they stayed until about 12.30am on 27 June 1901. He said that they had a glass of mild and bitter each and they were quarrelling and Amy Russell was crying. He said that when he asked her why she was crying that Ernest Wickham said, 'She is such a sensitive woman', and that Amy Russell said that life was not worth living.

He said that he told her, 'Well, you will be a long time dead', and that Ernest Wickham then said to her, 'If life is not worth living you will die tonight', and produced something from his pocket, but said that he could not see what it was, and said, 'This will do it, you die tonight'.

He said that they left together and that he had had to hurry them out and that he saw no more of them.

When the landlord of the Raglan beerhouse was cross-examined, he said that Ernest Wickham and Amy Russell were the same as other nights, except that he threatened to kill her.

A police sergeant that had been on duty on the night of 26 June 1901at Brixton Hill said that he had frequently seen Ernest Wickham there, generally between twelve and three at night, noting that sometimes he was alone and sometimes with Amy Russell, who he said he knew well.

He said that he saw them both in Josephine Avenue, Brixton Hill at about 1.15am on 27 June 1901 quarrelling, and talking in a very loud tone. He said that he then advised them to go home and that Ernest Wickham replied, 'All right', and that Amy Russell said, 'Come on, Percy' and that they then went off to Dalberg Road.

He noted that he later saw Ernest Wickham at the Police-station at Brixton between 4am and 5am when he was in custody.

A man that lived in Alma Road, Brixton said that in the early morning of 27 June 1901 that he got out of a tramcar at Brixton Station and walked down Alma Road, noting that he was smoking and that he wanted to finish smoking. He said he walked along Jelf Road, across Rattray Road, and then in the direction of Dalberg Road and that when he was near the end of Jelf Road where it went into Dalberg Road that he saw Ernest Wickham and Amy Russell on the right-hand side of the road as I was proceeding up.

He said that they were walking together very slowly, going towards Rattray Road, in the opposite direction to himself, but on the opposite side of the road. He said that he walked on, and went up Dalberg Road and that when he got into Barnwell Road he turned to the right, then to the right again, up Water Lane. He said that he then turned into Effra Road and went along as far as Morval Road and then turned to his right into Rattray Road again at which point he heard some terrible screams from the direction of Jelf Road.

He said that when he got into Jelf Road he see anything except a dark stream on the pavement and that when he ran into Dalberg Road he saw Amy Russell standing on the pavement near the kerb, swaying slightly. He said that he then went up to her and asked her what was the matter and said that she said, 'Sir, he has cut my throat'.

He said that he saw dark stains on her dress and coat and that she then half turned and fell full length in the road.

He said that he then bent over her to ask who had done it, but said that she didn't answer, and that he then went back to the corner of Jelf Road where he saw a man in his shirtsleeves who went off for a doctor, and that he then went and knocked at the first house for help. He said that he and a man then went out and lifted Amy Russell up and wrapped a towel round her throat and that he then went for the police returned with an ambulance to find a doctor attending to her.

A policeman that had been on duty in Mervan Road on the early morning of 27 June 1901 said that he heard shouts of 'Police!' coming from Dalberg Road and that when he went there hew saw Amy Russell lying on the ground near No 60 along with some other people including a doctor.

He said that he then noticed some tracks of blood starting from Jelf Road about half way between Rattray Road and Dalberg Road which he followed, stating that they went along Rattray Road, along Probert Road and Alma Road into Kerrick Road, and then into Atlantic Road, down to the corner of Electric Avenue and that from there, in consequence of something a coffee-stall owner said to him that he ceased to follow the track and went at once to the police station.

The coffee-stall owner said that he had been standing with his stall at the corner of Atlantic Road and Brixton Road in the early morning of 27 July 1901 at about 1.58am when Ernest Wickham, who had been a customer at his stall for over two years came along from the direction of Atlantic Road and asked for some coffee. He said that when Ernest Wickham paid for it he said to him, 'Hullo, Percy, what have you been doing?', noting that his hands were smothered in blood and said that he replied, 'Oh, it is all right, old boy, I know what I have been doing'.

He said that Ernest Wickham stood with him for about 15 minutes and called for a packet of Woodbine cigarettes which he served him. However, he noted that when he took one out and put it into his mouth the blood from his fingers saturated the paper, and he threw it under the stall because he could not light it. The coffee-stall owner said that another customer then took one of the cigarettes from the packet, lit it for hi, and gave it to him, and said to him, 'What have you been doing? Have you been punching the railway arches up?' to which Ernest Wickham replied, 'Oh! I know what I have been doing'.

He said that Ernest Wickham then called far a second cup of coffee but said that he declined to serve him on account of the state of his hands, noting that he kept putting them on the counter, and covered it with blood.

He said that Ernest Wickham then went off in the direction of Acre Lane and another man's coffee-stall.

The coffee-stall owner said that he had known Amy Russell for about 18 months, noting that she and Ernest Wickham were constantly out at night together, and stated that on that night that Ernest Wickham's manner didn't strike me as peculiar and that he seemed the same as usual.

The coffee-stall attendant at the corner of Acre Lane, Brixton said that Ernest Wickham had been a customer of his for the previous seven week's that he had been there.

He said that Ernest Wickham had been at his stall on 25 June 1901 at which time he had said to another customer, 'b----it not a d---- shame you can never get a thing done in Brixton?', to which the other customer asked, 'What is that?', and that Ernest Wickham said to him, 'I took this razor to the barber's in Hardwell Road to get it ground', and explained that it had not been done and so he had brought it away. He noted that Ernest Wickham showed the other customer the razor, taking it out from the inside pocket of his coat. The coffee-stall attendant noted that he too saw the razor, stating that it had a brown bone handle.

He said that the customer then said, 'I would shove it back in your pocket if I was you, old man', and that Ernest Wickham put it back in his pocket.

The coffee-stall attendant said that he saw Ernest Wickham again on 27 June 1901 between 2.10and 2.15am, stating that he had come to the station from the direction of Effra Road and asked for a cup of coffee which he served him with. He said that when Ernest Wickham paid for it that he noticed blood on his hands and said that he asked him, 'What is the matter with your hands?' and that he replied, 'Oh, I have only been in a little bit of a fight'. He said that he asked him, 'Why, don't you wash it off?', and said that Ernest Wickham said, 'It is just as good on as it is off; let it be till the morning, so that they can see what has been done'.

He said that blood was coming from both his hands, but mostly from his left hand.

He said that Ernest Wickham remained at the stall till about 2.30am and that whilst he was there they saw the police go by with an ambulance and that he said, 'I wonder where that is going?', to which Ernest Wickham said, 'I suppose for some poor drunken man. The coffee-stall attendant noted that it was coming from the direction of the police-station.

A police inspector said that he went to Dalberg Road at about 2.30am on 27 June 1901 and saw the spot where Amy Russell was found and then followed the trail of blood into the Atlantic Road to the corner of Electric Avenue, then to the coffee-stall at the corner of Acre Lane, then to second coffee-stall at the corner of Atlantic Road and Brixton Road. He said that from there the trail went into the Brixton Road, along Ferndale Road as far as the fire station, but no further.

He noted that a person going from the second coffee stall to 40 Santley Street by the Ferndale Road would pass by the fire station.

He said that he and another police inspector and a police sergeant then went to the first floor at 40 Santley Street where they found Ernest Wickham in a back room, undressed and in bed with his brother and with his hands covered with blood. He said that they then found some bloody clothing that belonged to Ernest Wickham as well as some blood stained boots and the razor which was also blood stained and lying on the top of a chest of drawers.

The inspector said that the razor was wet with blood and that when he opened it that a spot of blood dropped from it.

When the other police inspector told Ernest Wickham that he was going to arrest him for the murder of Amy Russell he made no reply.

When his right hand was examined he was found to have had a clean incision on the last joint on his first finger about ½ inch long which was quite superficial and on the left hand, under the knuckles of his first and middle fingers, there were quite superficial wounds, in which the skin had been shaved off completely. On the second finger there was a tag of skin left. The doctor that examined him said that there was no skin cut inside the hand and that the wounds on the left hand must have been caused by a very sharp instrument.

When Ernest Wickham was asked to plead at his trial he replied, 'I am anything you like'.

His defence stated that he had been drinking heavily and that he had had no intention of killing Amy Russell. However, it was noted that whilst he had been drinking heavily for three weeks beforehand that he had not been drunk all day on 26 June 1901.

It was thought that the murder was probably the end of a long wrangle and struggle, the cuts on both sides of Ernest Wickham's hands indicating that.

Ernest Wickham was convicted at the Old Bailey on Tuesday 23 July 1901. When the judge sentenced him Ernest Wickham tried to get away, shouting, 'I won't hear any more'. When the passing of sentence was completed he said, 'A good job too!'.

He was executed at Wandsworth by James Billington on 13 August 1901. His death was said to have been instantaneous.

see National Archives - CRIM 1/67/7, HO 144/571/A62778

see Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 26 June 2014), July 1901, trial of ERNEST WALTER WICKHAM (29) (t19010722-579).

see South London Press - Saturday 29 June 1901

see The Scotsman - Wednesday 14 August 1901